How Ashok Leyland is moving towards AI-led operations

Embracing an AI-led future is critical, and no longer an option for organisations, said Venkatesh Natarajan, CIO, Ashok Leyland.
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“We want to reach an artificial intelligence (AI)-led Ashok Leyland by 2023,” said Venkatesh Natarajan, CIO of Ashok Leyland, at the Gartner IT Symposium - India on Tuesday.

In the past decade, Ashok Leyland has had to evolve from traditional manufacturing company to a technology innovator, and transform towards a tech- and digital-driven mobility solutions provider, said Natarajan.

Ashok Leyland has around 1.5 lakh vehicles connected to AI, and the volume of data it generates is close to 2 terabytes (TB) every day, he added.

“If you consider that there are five levels of maturity from level one to level five, we probably are at level three, rapidly transitioning into level four. This is towards our goal of becoming an AI-Led Ashok Leyland,” Natarajan said.

Technology, data and AI are driving a huge gap between traditional and new-age differentiators, he added.

The need for 'pay per use' or consumption-based model, digital solutions and platforms to improve vehicle fleet efficiency, offering remote services, and many more are the differentiators for customers, Natarajan noted.

Ashok Leyland has its own AI platform, Hubble.ai, under which it has various functionalities, such as insights, predict, recommendation, computer vision, video analytics, robotic process automation (RPA), Robotics, and NLP@AL. (NLP is natural language processing.)

Each of these functions have helped Ashok Leyland provide business benefits on the revenue and cost front.

Natarajan cited Recommendation@AL, which helped the business generate an additional 8 percent revenue, as 32 percent of all spare parts that were recommended were actually ordered. This also helped bring down the lost-sale opportunities for the company.

He also referred to the quality check mechanism that Ashok Leyland has put in place called Computer Vision@ AL.

"This has ensured 99 percent accuracy level in the output, reduced reworking cost, and close to zero rejection of the products. Beyond these, warranty costs were also brought down using AI," Natarajan said.

Ashok Leyland sold 100,725 vehicles, 23,923 engines and 1,703 spares parts in fiscal year 2021. It generated consolidated revenue of Rs 19,454 crore in the same year, which has declined because of the pandemic.

“An all-time high volume of engines were sold despite negligible sales in the first quarter due to lockdown,” said the company in its annual report for FY 2021. Early interventions at spare parts warehouses and with supplier partners ensured continuation in supply chain for revenue to reach pre-Covid levels

RPA@AL was another application of AI that Natarajan cited. It had a 70 percent increase in the manpower savings because of drastic reduction in the number of people required to input invoices into the system annually.

The overall benefit from this function was at Rs 74 lakh. Ashok Leyland has less than 11,000 employees.

The final use-case Natarajan gave was NLP@ AL. In this, the company used virtual assistants for both its employees and suppliers community.

Embracing an AI-led future is critical, and no longer an option for organisations. It's imperative for not only the survival of every business, but also its success, he concluded.